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Zero To One: How To Start Painting-Nancy Hillis, MD-The Artist's Journey

Zero To One: How To Start Painting-Nancy Hillis, MD-The Artist’s Journey


My mathematician/physicist/musician partner taught me a concept from math recently that rocked my world.

He said that the difference between zero and one mathematically is bigger than the difference between any other two numbers!

I found this hard to believe. How could this be? Isn’t the difference between 0 and 1 the same as between 1 and 2?

Well…it turns out that it’s not!

And…I felt flummoxed by this fact.

And then it occurred to me that whether I ever understand the reasons for this difference or not…the fact of this difference between zero and one has enormous implications for artists and creators.

What Are The Implications Of Zero To One For Artists?

The revelation I had when I pondered this mathematical truth about zero to one was the notion that…

going from nothing to something is an enormous feat and something we do every time we show up in our studio.

The biggest movement in mathematics is 0 to 1 because there’s literally an infinity of numbers between 0 and 1. [In the postscript I’ll detail the discussion that explains this].

Likewise, as artists there’s an infinity of options between the space of doing nothing (represented by 0) and doing something (represented by 1).

In brief…the hardest thing, the most miraculous thing…is to just start.

The Biggest Movement Is To Show Up In The Studio

The most significant thing you can do for your art is to keep showing up…even when you don’t feel like it. This is an enormous thing. This is about going from procrastination to getting off the sofa and showing up in your studio. This is about painting or drawing even when you feel that you don’t have anything to express. This is about the enormous chasm between doing nothing and doing something. This is zero to one.

Will you show up consistently to create your art?

With gratitude,
P.S. Back by popular demand: I’m opening The Artist’s Journey again! This is my signature online course that has transformed artists paintings and their lives. Learn more HERE. 
Postscript: In which my partner, Bruce Sawhill, PhD describes the reasons for zero to one being the biggest difference between numbers.

N: I’m not sure why 0-1 is larger than 1-2 for example.

B: Look at their inverses.

N: One over zero? 1/0?

B: Yes. One over zero=infinity or “undefined”. Undefined is a category jump.

N: There’s an infinity of numbers between 0 and 1?

B: Yes there is, because inversion maps those numbers one to one against all numbers from 1 to infinity.

N: And the other inverses are 1/1, 1/2, 1/3, 1/4, etc?

B: Yes!

N: You mean I figured something out by osmosis? [I think about math more than I ever would because of being around Bruce! Perhaps there’s hope for non-mathematicians like me!]

P.S.S: I would love to hear your thoughts about your experience of zero to one, showing up in the studio, getting to your art, and so forth.


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